Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader yesterday hoped to start the work for expanding Dhaka-Sylhet highway into four lanes in July, as uncertainty regarding funding is over.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) will finance the project, the minister told reporters at his secretariat office, after holding a meeting with ADB Country Director Manmohan Parkash.
The minister came up with the announcement amid media reports that the long-drawn project may face further delay, as ADB could divert its funds if the project is not approved by June this year.
The minister said Development Project Proposal (DPP) will be prepared within March and then it would be sent to the Planning Commission.
"After approval [by Ecnec], we hope that construction of the project would start within July," he said.
As per preliminary estimate, the project would cost around Tk 20,000 crore and the lion's share of it will be funded by ADB, he added.
At first, authorities wanted to implement the project with money borrowed from China. But the government later decided to do the work using their own resources, following failed negotiations with a Chinese company.
But the Road Transport and Highways Division (RTHD) later changed their decision and asked the Economic Relations Division (ERD) to find a foreign financier. ADB last year gave consent to fund the project.
The previous feasibility study and detail design was prepared on basis of data collected between 2013 and 2014. The design is being reviewed now, said a source at Roads and Highways Department (RHD), the implementing authority of the project.
Tushar Kanti Saha, additional chief engineer (Sylhet zone) of RHD, who is overseeing the land acquisition matter for the project, said they are now conducting field level survey and hoped to hand over the final proposal to the deputy commissioner's office concerned within March.
Replying to a question, he told this newspaper yesterday that it would take at least six months to complete all necessary procedures to make the land free for carrying out the project.
AKM Manir Hossain Pathan, additional chief engineer (planning and maintenance wing) of RHD, said they have to bring some changes to the project design and hoped to complete preparation for DPP within two months.
Once the project is approved, they would go for tendering process and it is difficult to give an exact deadline to complete the process, he said yesterday.
"It would take at least five to six months," he added.
RTHD Secretary Nazrul Islam and RHD Chief Engineer Ashraful Alam were present at the meeting with ADB country chief.
MINISTER ON ROAD CRASH NUMBER
World Bank on Friday released a report on road safety condition of Bangladesh.
As per the report, the increase in road crash fatality rate per capita between 1990 and 2017 was three times higher in Bangladesh than that across South Asia.
For the highest-risk group—males between the ages of 15 and 49 years—the rate of increase in Bangladesh was 15 times higher than that across the region, it said.
When asked about the report, Quader said, "We have to check it. I'm not sure about that, but a report of World Health Organization (WHO) is not supporting the data."
The minister, however, did not give any details about WHO's report.
Replying to another question about rise of road crashes, the minister said: "The overall number of accidents has decreased in last few years, but I wouldn't deny that spikes in the number of road crashes do occur. We're trying to bring the number down."
The minister said they have already accepted a WB project for road safety.
But, accident reports of different road safety organisations, even the police report, said the number of road crashes is increasing.
According to police data, 4,138 people were killed in 4,147 road accidents last year. At least 2,635 people were killed in 2,609 road crashes in 2018 and 2,513 were killed in 2,562 accidents in 2017.
However, the number is much lower than that of road safety organisations.